Through the years I’ve talked a lot about Left Brain versus Right Brain theory. The brain has two separate hemispheres, and each is responsible for different areas of activity. As the theory goes, your Left Brain is better at doing some things and your Right Brain is better at doing other things. For example, your Left Brain is good at math, logic, accounting, engineering, etc. Running a betting strategy in your head? You are in full Left Brain mode. Your Right Brain is good at creativity, imagination, art and music. Focusing on executing the perfect pitch with your throw? You are functioning in Right Brain mode. Think about the stereotypical “geek,” the clumsy brainiac with absolutely no athletic ability. He’s a Left Brainer. Now think about the “natural” athlete, the stereotypical jock who needs tutoring to keep his grades up to maintain his scholarship. He’s operating in Right Brain mode most of the time.
Now let’s think about playing craps and attempting to execute a controlled throw. You need good Left Brain ability to analyze the bets, make any adjustments needed, evaluate the action on the layout and figure out what shot you need to make with the dice, where your landing zone is, etc. But you need to function in Right Brain mode to actually execute the toss. And here’s the key. You can’t operate in Left Brain mode and Right Brain mode at the same time. Attempting to do so is a trap most shooters fall into. It’s also one of the biggest reasons for inconsistency in execution. Your Left Brain cannot toss the dice worth a flip, but you are mostly functioning in Left Brain mode – thinking about your bets, which number you need to toss next, what your next press move will be, etc. – while your attempting to execute a Right Brain function – tossing the dice
Are you still considering the fact that some guy has his chips in your landing zone while you prepare to toss the dice? Do you suddenly decide to change sets while you’re setting the dice? Do you focus on your foot alignment as you get into your toss position. Do you tell your self to focus on the landing zone and watch the dice until they strike the table? Are you focusing on doing the same thing the same way each and every time you touch the dice? These are ALL examples of a shooter operating in Left Brain mode. You are over-thinking everything instead of just visualizing success and letting it happen. The Left Brain is a klutz, yet you try to take control with it all the time. You are judging what you are doing with it. You are trying so hard to do it right with your Left Brain.
I have several Left Brain – Right Brain exercises I’ve used through the years to train myself and others in operating in Right Brain mode. Here’s one that I like that you might want to try:
Take a sheet of paper and sign your name like you normally do, then draw two horizontal lines about 1/2 an inch apart, then sign your name again between the lines. But this time the bottoms of the letters of your name must touch the bottom line but cannot go below it except for the tails that normally go below for lower case letters like g, j, p and y. Every letter must touch the bottom line and no strokes can go above the top line. Letters below the bottom line or not touching it lose a point.
Was that pretty easy or was it more difficult than you imagined. Perhaps it was impossible for you. Did you lose any points? How many?
The first time you signed your name was uncontrolled. You were signing without thinking – without the Left Brain directing your actions. Pretty easy, huh? Your normal signature is a trained movement – just like your normal dice toss. Also pretty easy if you’ve practiced enough.
The second time you signed your name – attempting to stay between the lines – your Left Brain was in charge. It was carefully directing your movements, analyzing how you were doing and controlling your subsequent actions. The outcome was more important because you did not want to lose points. Odds are what you ended up with was not your normal, natural signature.
In most sports, operating in a Right Brain, athletic way is part of playing that sport. You are reacting to a ball or a puck or another player. It’s all act and react. You don’t have time to think about how to do it or to be careful about what you are doing. When you over-analyze it tends to screw things up. This is why so many basketball players can make great three-pointers from the floor but can’t shoot a foul shot to win the game. When they have the time to think about the shot they struggle to make it.
Have you ever tried to “fix” problems with your toss during live play? Then your Left Brain is in charge, analyzing what is happening with the dice and attempting to force a better toss. After a terrible session do you quickly sign up for another lesson with your favorite dice coach? Or do you spend the next three days at the practice rig with spending more time with your Left Brain in charge – trying to find a solution to your toss issues? After all, that’s what you’ve heard from everyone for years, right? Practice practice practice? But I would suggest to you that what you are actually doing in these situations is training yourself to toss the dice in Left Brain mode all the time.
An effective practice session will see you using your Left Brain for what it is good at, then switching to Right Brain to make the toss. But how do you do that? I’ve talked about it many times through the years. Take a look at the Experts Speak portion of the forum and read my articles on visualization and “putting on the blinders.” But here’s a thumbnail version of how you should handle it.
Sit in a chair. If it’s comfortable for you, keep your back straight. Breathe in through your nose to a count of four. Breathe out through your mouth to a count of eight. If you have some privacy, say “huh, huh, huh” at the end of the exhalation. Repeat the breaths four times.
Close your eyes. Tighten the muscles in your feet and then relax. Concentrate on feeling the muscles relax. Repeat. Tighten the muscles in your calves, relax, feel the relaxation, and repeat. Do the same with the muscles in your thighs, then with your buttocks stomach and lower back, then with your chest, then your upper back, then your shoulders, then arms, then hands, then neck. Make a face, scrunching up your facial muscles, relax, and repeat.
Think of a peaceful setting. When coaching students in a live situations I sometimes refer to this as your “happy place.” It can be a beach or a forest or anything. The important thing is that it be someplace that you’ve been where you felt relaxed and happy and just all-around good. Remember what the place looked like. Picture the details in your mind. Then remember the sounds that you heard. Next, add in the smells. Then your sense of touch — what do you feel on your skin? Finally, add in the taste. Let all your senses work as you re-experience this place where you felt great.
Next visualize yourself in the casino. It’s a beautiful property with all of the amenities you have come to appreciate. You stroll up to the craps pit, see your position open at one of the tables, walk up and smile at the dealer. She smiles back and welcomes you to the game. You notice the puck is off so you buy in and the dice immediately come to you. You place your pass line bet and select two dice, quickly setting them then lofting them perfectly down the table. The dice land and your favorite point is called. You take odds on your bet, place your other power numbers, then loft the dice down the table again. They tumble in mirror image to one another, touch down lightly and bounce once to the back wall. The stick man calls “Win win win, pay pay pay. We have ourselves a shooter.”
Stay in this “winning” place in your mind for about five minutes, experiencing it as vividly as you can with all of your senses. The sights, the sounds, the exhilaration of winning.
When you are ready, open your eyes. Stand up, lift your arms over your head and stretch. Drop your arms and shake them out.
At this point, think about how you can repeat this exercise while standing at the table. Watch the dice as the stickman rakes them in the middle of the table. Visualize the moves you’ll need to make to set the dice. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, let it out and relax. Open your eyes, set the dice, then quickly loft them down the table. You know how to relax – how to function in Right Brain mode, and how to win. It’s a skill — a learned skill — and it is yours. The more you practice this exercise, the more skillful you will become.